This is the first in a series of posts were I'll be looking back at previous Massive Attack releases and giving my own opinion on them along with a rating out of 5. You know, like a real reviewer would. :lol: In terms of what I'll be reviewing it could be anything from the albums, to singles, to obscure b-sides or remixes.
OK, with that out of the way let's look at this trio of E.P releases that came out during the Heligoland era. They all fit neatly together, all having had a limited edition release from Vinyl Factory and all having some neat artwork from 3D adorning their lovely glittering coverings.
Splitting the Atom E.P
At the time, this E.P was a bit of disappointment to me. Coming out in October 2009, it was the teaser for Heligoland and had alot riding on it. I don't think it quite reached the mark as a standalone entity, but was a decent release in retrospect, that did its job in selling us all on the upcoming album and the kind of sound the band were going for.
The song itself - Splitting The Atom, I've got something of a love/hate thing with. On the one hand, its has that atmospheric hook that alot of Massive Attack songs draw me in with and it also featured a great return of Daddy G on vocals (a first in over 10 years). On the other hand, the beat is just way too repetitive and it goes nowhere and comes across to me as Massive trading in on their chilled stoner persona to carry the song.
Pray For Rain goes in the opposite direction - very dynamic with a complex drum pattern that shifts wildly throughout the middle section. It also features the unmistakable vocals of Tunde Adebimpe (don't ask me to pronounce that one!). And I still like this track alot. The more sombre piano parts took abit of getting used to, but its that almost funky breakdown groove that occurs in the 4th minute that really elevates this track into something quite special. One of my favourite moments not just on this E.P but Heligoland itself.
Of more interest perhaps, are the two remixes exclusive to this release. First up is the BulletProof Love remix (bit of a cheesy title really, I'm glad they changed it to Flat Of The Blade on the album). It coasts along at a languid pace with a light thumping beat and horns floating above the surface. Guy Garvey's vocals are heavily processed and lose alot of their flavor which would'nt be revealed until the album version came out. I could say the same about the horns as well. I do love the album version, but I'm just fairly indifferent to this remix, good in parts, but could of done with a bit of a trim.
With Psyche, we have something rare for a remix admittedly - its better than the album track. At least for me it is. The album version is beautiful and soothing and all that other good stuff yes, but there's something about this Flash Treatment mix that I find better. This version just has more life to it and I got used to the reverb on Martina's voice and missed it when I finally got to hear the album track a few months later. Which brings us to...
Atlas Air E.P
No shocker here really, but this is my least favourite of the E.P's, and I'm pretty sure the overall critical reaction to this upon release is'nt too dissimilar to my own. The timing for this E.P did'nt really do it any good. It was post-Heligoland and I think fans were expecting to be graced with some new material, perhaps culled from the tracks debuted live back in 2008. For good or bad, knowing Massive Attack they confounded those expectations and choose to go a different route. Instead what we got here were three electronic music producers taking their stab at remixing with no real unifying concept or theme going on.
I just get nothing really from either of the 2 Atlas Air remixes on this. They are just bland electro house fillers to me that I have trouble telling apart at times. It's a shame too, because Atlas Air is my favourite cut off Heligoland.
Which leaves us with the Clark remix of Red Light. Originally written during the soundtrack recording sessions of "In Prison My Whole Life", Red Light has been knocking around for a number of years, and as the initial press release of the E.P seemed to indicate this was it's time to shine.
Well disappointingly, some sort of switcheroo occurred before the E.P came out and we ended up with this Clark remix, which was'nt really my thing at all. I'm not really a fan of IBM music, which this remix is in the style of. It takes all the warmth and energy out of the song and leaves it cold and brittle. This might suit some people's tastes but, I'm guessing alot felt cheated that we did'nt get the original version of Red Light. Maybe Massive are just holding on to it for a more higher profile release, like, I don't know, the next album, say?
If you really want to hear Red Light, just listen to this soundboard recording from the Milan 2009 show. Best sounding version out there hands-down, until Massive decide to release this track properly once and for all. Just putting this live version on the E.P would have made me happy.
[audiotube url="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VGeUpI8HqM8" caption="Red Light - Live In Milan 2009 (Soundboard)"]
The overall best thing I can say about this E.P really is the sparkly minstrels image on the front cover. HINT TO D: Release as a print on POW now. Easy £325. ;-)
Four Walls E.P
On the surface, this has the same problem as the Atlas Air E.P - it just's another bunch of remixes, no new band material as such. Where this release succeeds however, is the whole concept approach taken with it, getting Burial in and making it alot more of a cohesive listening experience, in contrast to the last E.P, which was a bit too much of a random listening experience for me.
Not much Massive Attack then in either of these remixes, which makes this a Burial E.P for all intents and purposes. On that level I can enjoy it though. Over the course of the 24 minutes running time of the 2 remixes, Burial keeps the beauty of Hope Sandoval's vocals while slowing down the tempo and adding a dreamy fuzz to the whole thing. Dark and menacing, while being calm and mystical at the same time. I get that vibe from alot of Massive's best tunes, so it was a treat to see Burial give his own approximation of those feelings in his own musical terms of distorted looped-up soundscapes. And the last 3 minutes of Paradise Circus - the "let love fly" bit. Don't need to go in depth on this one, but that was amazing.
One last thing about this E.P, while nothing to do with the quality of the music itself, I can't help but feel half amused/annoyed, with how its been flogged on Ebay. It's been selling for upwards of £200 in many cases continually since last October. I reckon about half of everyone who bought it direct from Vinyl Factory, only had this intention. It's not Vinyl Factory's fault but, I suppose that's the danger of limited editions; you run the risk of a true music lover losing out to chancers looking for an easy buck.
The odd thing is that the other 2 E.P's don't seem to attract half as much interest or resell value on Ebay, even though they were all produced in the same limited quantity of 1,000 copies. Maybe that's because of the higher profile of Burial as a remixing artist, or simply because unlike the other 2 E.P's, this one never received a digital release, with the physical vinyl being the only way to legally own it. Good music should'nt have to be that dear to own.
In terms of future E.P's, I think I speak for most fans, that remixes can be nice sometimes, but the odd bit of original material would'nt go amiss. I think it would be lazy at this stage to release another E.P comprised entirely of remixes. Perhaps this post-Heligoland release phase of E.P's is now concluded, but would I heartily pay for a nice Vinyl Factory edition that had say Dobro, All I Want, Marakesh and Red Light on it? Yep! And I think that would keep me happy on the new material front for the next couple of years. Honestly! :mrgreen: